I'll pause a beat here for the doubletake.
Yes, you saw right. Burr was partnered with Hamilton, his bitter political foe and in less than a decade his victim in the most famous duel in American history. But as author Paul Collins documents the story, the time, and the place, we learn that Manhattan was indeed a small town and these civic, legal, financial, military, and political leaders crossed paths many times over the years, often on opposite sides of the issues, but here on the same side of the defendant's table in a New York City courtroom. Just one example of the many intertwined threads of the story: the well where the young woman's body was found was dug by Burr's Manhattan Company.
Part murder mystery, part legal procedural, part cold case file, the story is told with perfect pacing and spare noir style, relying heavily on multiple contemporary accounts of the murder and trial, including one published just hours after the verdict and another complete verbatim transcript of the trial proceedings recorded by the then-new technique of shorthand court reporting. Collins uses quotes around dialogue just as it was recorded in these sources, so his writing has a current "you are there" feel, and he fleshes out the details with wisely used research in other sources to describe the places, time, and people involved in the case.
The only thing keeping this book from a 5-star classic rating is how slim it is. Clocking in at barely 200 pages, easily finished in a couple of hours, it reads like a padded-out magazine feature story. But the story is still a well-crafted gem that rewards the reader whether they are interested in the history, the politics, or the murder mystery.
What did you think of this review?